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Blog of Sarah McIntyre, children's book writer & illustrator
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1. new cakes in space cover!

The hardcover version of Cakes in Space has been out since last autumn, so my publishers are gearing up to release the paperback this summer. The pictures inside will be black and white instead of colour, but I got to work with Oxford University Press designer Jo Cameron to put together a new cover for it. Here it is!

I really like it. We debated for a long time if it would be better to have a black or blue background, but once I saw it all together with the blue, I decided Jo had made a good decision, nice and zingy. And I like the slightly retro Russian cosmonaut look of the colours and stars. Also, we're still getting exciting sightings of our poster in the London Underground! Here's one from ace book blogger Sister Spooky:

In other news, I've been interviewed by Edinburgh-based book blogger Julie Stirling and we talk about the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign to get illustrators better recognised for their work. A lot of it's to do with mistakes in what's called 'meta data', and we're trying to learn more about it so we can fix the problem. You can read the interview here.

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2. super librarian poster - in welsh!

Remember this sign? I've had so many people spot it in libraries around Britain and abroad.

And I've had requests to translate it into Welsh, so with the linguistic help of Bob Miles & friends, here's a version that you can download and print. If you know anyone who would like it, please let them know! I'm not asking for any money for it, but if you could leave a note in the comments here to let me know who you are and where you're using it, I'd love to know!

Click here to download in colour as an A3 PDF, and here as an A4 PDF.

I've also created a black and white version if you'd like to colour it yourself or have kids in the library colour it for you:

Click here to download in black & white as an A3 PDF, and here as an A4 PDF.

And here's the version in English, which you can download from my earlier blog post. Thanks to all the great feedback from Wales about last year's Mythical Maze themed Summer Reading Challenge!

Keep up the work, fabulous librarians! Your training and skills at connecting kids with reading are a backbone of our society and we think you're awesome. We hope governments and councils everywhere comes to see things the same way.

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3. happy birthday, co-author!

(If you've never read our Dartmoor Pegasus story, you can catch up here.)

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4. pictures mean business: 'after careful consideration...'

So here's my latest update on the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign. Like most illustrators, I still don't know very much about why we regularly get left out of being credited for the books we illustrate, but I'm discovering more and more that it's not a complete lack of respect from people in the publishing industry. It all keeps coming back to two things:

1. Tediously faulty data systems, or 'meta data'
2. People who don't think to question this faulty data

That's why we had an article in The Bookseller quoting Axel Scheffler feeling undervalued for his work, right above a listing where he's not mentioned with the picture book he illustrated (Superworm). It wasn't deliberate, someone just didn't put two-and-two together:

It happened again today: the Red House Children's Book Awards were announced and when I clicked over to their award page of their website, only the writers of the books were listed. Which is odd, because you can see a little picture of illustrator Oliver Jeffers on their home page. So they were obviously thinking about him, they just forgot to put his name into the listing.

Now anyone who looks at Drew and Oliver's book sees it's highly dependent on illustrations and Oliver's hand-drawn lettering. And you may think, does this even matter? Everyone knows Oliver illustrated that book. ...Well, yes, it does. That press release will have gone out to the media and there's a good chance many of them will plug the data into their articles without even checking to see the illustrator's been left out. Illustrators rely heavily on brand identity for ongoing sales, and this doesn't help.

I (rather nervously) brought it up with the award's hosts, The Book People, on Twitter, and they're like most of us, they're people who love books and want to get things right, they're just rushing a bit and don't have the latest software.

It wasn't just illustrators; even a co-writer (Amanda Swift) got left out because they couldn't fit two names on the date entry line.

But the whole point of these awards is publicity and raising the profile of children's books, so it would make sense for awards people to stop and think how they're presenting this information ('after careful consideration') to the public. I'm sure the judges put a lot of thought into the selection, and the website people are separate from the judging process, but it makes the awards look slapdash, like the people involved haven't actually sat down and looked at the physical books, to notice that they're illustrated. I'm sure this isn't true, but it's not a clever way to present the public face of the award.

I was happy to see a few hours later that the website had already been updated to include Oliver's name. Hurrah! So it IS possible, it's not too much of a programming nightmare. But there are several other illustrators who need added - David Tazzyman (illustrator of Demon Dentist), Thomas Flintham (Baby Aliens Got my Teacher), and Bruce Ingman (Let Loose the Leopard). And throughout the website, there are lots of other illustrators left unlisted (for example, David Tazzyman and Sarah Horne in their Pick of the Year list). Here's the fixed entry:

Kudos to the rep at The Book People for replying so quickly and starting to get on the case! I realise they honestly do mean well.

But it's a call for people to think when they get book data. I'm hoping very much we can fix some of the most cumbersome systems (Nielsen - and Biblio/Virtusales, which I only just heard about) and encourage publishers enter all the right information. (Good ol' Nosy Crow...)

But until then, publishing world and media, if you love book illustration, please stand by us and fix this faulty data manually.

Keep an eye on the hash tag and add your comments: #PicturesMeanBusiness

. . .
NOOOOOOOO!!!! Just as a saved this blog post, I saw a tweet from wonderful writer Caryl Hart. And I love The Reading Agency, they hosted me as last year's Summer Reading Challenge illustrator, but guess what, they've forgotten to credit a lot of illustrators on their book list. And again, it's most likely a data problem. And people not paying attention. ARGHHHHHHH. Please, someone just make it stop...!

(See the picture book list here.)

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5. some weekend birthdays!

Happy birthday to my lovely husband, Stuart! I painted this picture for him, not quite knowing where I was going with it, but he's taking Russian language classes, and the character of Vern the sheep (in my comic book Vern and Lettuce) is very much based on his personality. (I wasn't implying that he has a sheep in his trousers or anything. Oh! Also, it is the Chinese Year of the Sheep.) Stuart's been such wonderful support this year as I flit about and stress over book deadlines.

And here's another picture for Francesca Simon:

I was inspired by her big hair, and by the time she modelled my Norse god wings at the Edinburgh Book Festival (she's written books about Norse gods):

...and camel riding together in Dubai at the Emirates Lit Fest. (Yes, that IS a camel unicorn in the painting.)

Congrats to Francesca on a great run on the Horrid Henry books, 21 years! Here's an article about it in the latest issue of The Bookseller:

And lovely birthday cake by Great British Bake Off's Frances Quinn, snapped by Orion publicist Nina Douglas:

Francesca and I are performing in one of the events of the World Book Day whistlestop tour, so I'll be seeing her again soon, along with ringmaster Steven Butler, Philip Reeve, Holly Smale, Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Rosen. Good times ahead!

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6. sleepy pegasus

Have a good weekend, everyone!

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7. julius zebra: this book is funny!

I got to be a judge in the final year of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, and since it ended, there's been a big gap in the recognition of funny books. Many of the best of these books are illustrated, but too wordy to bag the Greenaway illustration medal, and too reliant on pictures to win the Carnegie writing prize. Funny books are more difficult to write than serious books or even books that make us cry. It's easy to dismiss funny things as less consequential or important than serious ones, but political cartoons that cleverly capture an idea often have far more impact than an impassioned article. Sales show that kids LOVE funny books, and laughing at a situation can often help take away the fear of things that would otherwise be scary or worrying. Comic timing is one of the most difficult skills to master... so why haven't we been heralding Britain's best?

Well, never fear! Some of my friends are ON THE CASE and have been scheming to develop This Book is Funny!, with plans to seek out the funniest books. I was at the pub a couple weeks ago with Alex Milway, Gary Northfield, David O'Connell and Matt Baxter (who all make funny books and comics) and Matt showed me the red logo he'd designed. Here it is!

And the very first book they're featuring on the website - www.thisbookisfunny.com - is my studio mate's upcoming book, Julius Zebra. Wahoo! Here are a few words from Alex Milway about the project:

And here is their very straightforward mission:

So plans for this include reviewing funny books on the website, hosting events, and supplying a red sticker to booksellers so that customers can more easily find funny books if they know that's what their kids love.

Now, my studio mate Gary Northfield has been making funny comics and books for years. You might recognise some of these titles - Derek the Sheep (his first book with some of his collected Beano strips), The Terrible Tales of the Teenytinysaurs (dinosaur adventure comics), Gary's Garden (collected strips from The Phoenix Comic) and his ongoing Phoenix Comic work.

But Julius Zebra is Gary's first book that isn't a comic. I couldn't help smiling when I saw his tweet, the first time he saw it printed up:

And here it is! It's a lovely thing, a solid hardback with beautiful stripey zebra endpapers.

This book's going to be a winner with so-called 'reluctant readers' because every single story page is lightened by at least one picture. (The Horrible Histories book team also made this decision, as it proves so effective in keeping kids turning pages.) Schools will love it because of its researched ancient Roman theme, but serious history doesn't get in the way of plain silliness.

The book's a pleasing mix of plain text and cartoons, such as these, when we first meet young Julius. He hates going to the stinky water hole with his family and shows off his new-found independence:

Look at him go, he's so confident, is Julius:

Ha ha, oh wait, maybe not!

Oh no! A lion has driven the animals away from the watering hold and Julius is separated from his family. The lion chases Julius and the warthog and all three of them fall into a hole, which turns out to be a TRAP. They're captured by humans and taken all the way across the sea, to Rome!

At first, Julius is quite excited, because he's heard that they're all going to the circus. He's excited to see juggling monkeys. But then he discovers they won't be watching the circus, they're going to be performing:

He gradually learns that it won't even be a jolly sort of performance...

They are going to be thrown into the arena to fight trained GLADIATORS.

And bizarrely, they don't do too badly on their first appearance in THE COLOSSEUM! After Julius panics, he tries to fight back and hits a gladiator with a sword, and the crowd takes pity on him. Emperor Hadrian spares the animals' lives and enrolls them in his world-famous Gladiator School, Ludus Magnus. Their instructor, Septimus, is used to training tough men, and is less than thrilled when they present themselves at roll call.

One of my favourite things about the book is the way the text breaks for little comic aside comments. This one's quite sweet:

I love the way Gary draws, even his wobbly energetic lines are funny, with their bugged eyes and gaping mouths. Don't be deceived in thinking this kind of drawing is fast and easy; Gary really poured himself into this book and it took AGES to write and draw (and redraw and redraw).

You might notice that all the pages have Roman numerals instead instead of our standard Arabic numbering system. Which means each page number is like a code to be worked out, and Gary provides an explanation at the end of the book:

He also includes a four-page glossary, that's mostly educational, but Gary's personality keeps coming through.

And right at the end of the book... oh, look! It's a photo I took across the desk, from where I sit in the studio.

Gary worked with editor Lizzie Spratt at Walker Books, the same person who edited his Derek and Teenytinysaurs books, and with designer Jack Noel.

Oo, and look, it's funny writer Philip Ardagh, author of The Eddie Dickens trilogy with David Roberts and The Grunts books with Axel Scheffler! So what does Ardagh have to do with this book?

Ah, look there, right across the top of the book. A lovely quotation!

So this book launches at the beginning of March with Walker Books and will make a fabulous gift and be perfect for stocking in libraries. I anticipate people asking which age it's best for, and I'd say ages 6-12, but younger kids will enjoy it being read to them, and there's no reason to say adults and Gary's comics fans won't enjoy it, too. Gary's busy working on the second Julius Zebra book right now.

Congratulations, Gary! You've gone and written a blinkin' novel!

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8. some more #nonidentikit drawings

Playing around with a nose shape... a couple more #NonIdentikit portraits. (You can read my Huffington Post article about the NonIdentikit Challenge.)

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9. pictures mean business: some challenges

Over the weekend, I had a direct-message Twitter conversation with writer-illustrator James Mayhew and he was suggesting we come up with a hash tag for this campaign to get illustrators credited for their work. We batted around ideas until I suggested #PicturesMeanBusiness, which we both thought seemed to fit in both senses of the phrase: Professional illustrators ARE business people, and we're standing up to be recognised as people who bring money into the economy with what we do.

But illustrating the hash tag is tricky! Corporation-approved 'business' images usually include a person in a suit, or rather safe, dull logos. I first thought of this one:

But it's boring. It's not really what I do. I don't go to work every day in a grey suit. Many of us love bright colours and draw very silly things. And that's not to say these images have no power or sales value, just that they're not drab. So for now, I’ve written the hash tag on a fat blue pegasus. (Why not?) But use the blue pencil if it makes you prefer, or better yet, rework the hash tag phrase using one of your own characters or images!

Update on the Nielsen situation: my agent Jodie Hodges and Charlotte Eyre at The Bookseller are looking into how Nielsen listings work so we can be well-informed before approaching them. Basically, I've realised there's a problem and flagged it, but I don't have access to Nielsen BookScan so I don't know all the details of how it works. Very few illustrators do, we're all learning right now.

You can read my earlier post on the subject here.

So what does it mean if you support #PicturesMeanBusiness?

1. It means you believe illustration (and cover design) contributes to people's decisions to buy books.

2. It means you respect the profession of illustration as a proper skilled profession and not some cute little hobby.

3. It means you think top-quality illustrators should be able to make a living from their work.

4. It means you feel upset when you see a review of a much-loved picture book and it only mentions the writer's name.

5. It means you believe illustrators should be listed on databases with the books they've created, just like writers, in ways that their books and sales can be tracked. (If business can't see illustrators' contribution to business, they will assume illustration doesn't contribute.)

How can you support the awareness campaign?

1. Use the hash tag! If everyone adds #PicturesMeanBusiness to their tweets, it will keep the conversation all in one place, instead of slipping down the Twitter stream. Hash tags can also be used on Facebook and Instagram. We've seen the power of the hash tag in the #JeSuisCharlie movement.

2. PUBLISHER CHALLENGE! Be attentive about your Nielsen data! Whoever is entering the data, make sure they know it’s essential to include the name of the illustrator (and translator, where appropriate).

3. WRITER CHALLENGE! When you show off a beautiful new book cover, mention the people who made that cover happen! It might be the illustrator who also did the interior illustrations, or an artist paid to do a cover for a text-only book. It might be assembled by a designer. If it's your book cover, find out who made it and share the news! This information can be very hard for your readers to discover if you don't share it.

4. PUBLICIST CHALLENGE! Mention the cover artist! Lots of news books are coming out right now and you're tweeting covers. If you can't fit the name of the illustrator or designer in the main body of the tweet, consider including them in the 'Who's in this photo?' option:

People WANT to know this stuff! It makes your tweet more interesting and share-worthy. A couple days ago, I saw a lovely cover tweeted with no mention that it the image was created by Jon Klassen. JON KLASSEN! Best-selling writer-illustrator who won last year's Greenaway medal and the Caldecott medal in the USA. WHY wouldn't a publicist want to shout this from the rooftops?

5. BOOK LOVER CHALLENGE! Find out who drew the covers to your favourite books! See if they're on Twitter or have a website. Post the cover, the hash tag, the illustrator or designer's name, and some way we can find out more about them (their Twitter name or their website).

6. ILLUSTRATOR CHALLENGE! get a Twitter account. You don't need to write a single tweet, but if you can just have your name there, with your website in your profile, it makes it much easier to link to you. Encourage your illustrator friends just to get an account, with a web link.

As illustrators, we can also big up our book team.

In Jampires and Dinosaur Police, I've managed to get the names of the designer and editor into the books, which I'd love to do with all my books in the future. I think readers appreciate the extra information, and the editor and designer deserve credit, too.

And if you’re on Twitter, have a browse of the discussion happening already!


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10. crediting illustrators

Great to see this apology printed in today's copy of The Bookseller! Let's hope this means more attention to crediting illustrators, fingers crossed.

Photo tweeted by @childrensbookil

I think this is the article mentioned at the end, and you can catch up with what it's all about in my previous blog post, with some updates in the comments.

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11. reeve & mcintyre book 3: pugs of the frozen north!

And here we have it, the big cover reveal! Reeve & McIntyre book 3 will be.... big drum roll....

And here's a look at the back cover, before it's even had the logo and a barcode whacked onto that yeti's tummy:

Philip Reeve and I are SOOO excited about this one! Stay posted for further updates, but here's a look at a few of the inside pages:

These pugs are brave and fierce!

Here's a little look at the town of Snowdovia, based on visits to Seldovia in Alaska and Skudeneshavn in Norway:

Pugs of the Frozen North doesn't launch until September! (Here's the Oxford University Press web page.)

...But in the meantime, catch up on these two FINE books if you haven't read them already! All three books feature different characters, but all are about kids going on weird and wonderful adventures into the unknown. (And check out the activity sheets for each of them - Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space.) I'd guess that they're for readers ages 7 to adult. But I know a lot younger kids have enjoyed having adults read the stories to them, and adults report happily read them with no kids in sight.

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12. digging deep: the real reason illustrators keep getting overlooked

A couple weeks ago I was exchanging e-mails with journalist Charlotte Eyre at The Bookseller magazine, and was pleased when this article came out, quoting Axel Scheffler, Ted Dewan, An Vrombaut, Simon James and me about how illustrators are disgruntled about being left out of so many mentions of their books.

You can read the full article online, but here's a clip:

It's why I argue that people should say 'writer and illustrator' not 'author and illustrator', since BOTH the person writing and the person drawing are telling the story. Both are authors. (You can read a more lengthy article I wrote about this a few months ago: Why I hate the word 'author'.)

So I was shocked today to read the feature article in The Bookseller, lauding Michael Rosen as the creator of the enduring picture book We're Going on a Bear Hunt with an obvious lack of reference to its illustrator, Helen Oxenbury, although it used her images. Here's the beginning of the online version (hidden behind the paywall):

And the print version:

The only mention given to Oxenbury was by Rosen, a sentence in his profile next to Eric Carle. Even the listing with selling data should have given a clue, with her name written next to Rosen's on the book cover. But it only mentioned Rosen:

Now, I know this isn't Rosen's doing. He's freely credited Oxenbury at other times with her magnificent achievements in the book, and this Guardian article about the book from 2012 lets Oxenbury talk about her contribution to the book before Rosen. (You can read the full article here: How we made.)

You might ask, 'Does it even matter, as long as kids are able to find and read the book? If I insist on credit for my picture books, am I just being A BIG ATTENTION-SEEKER?'

...First, I need to say a few things about the idea of 'recognition' for an illustrator

1. Illustrators do NOT just want recognition because we are insecure and need pats on the back to tell us we're doing a good job.

2. Illustrations do NOT usually care much about being recognised in the street. Very often we are quiet people and would rather go unnoticed while we sketch.

3. Illustrators do NOT usually count trophy cups and television appearances as the pinnacle of our careers. We're much happier when we get a freshly printed copy of our book, open it, and feel proud of what we've done. We're happy when its intended audience gets to read it. We're happy when we get paid enough money to live on.

4. Illustrators are discovering more and more that it's not enough to sit at a desk and turn out beautiful illustrations. In a media world driven by celebrity culture, it's the people who appear on television and national radio who sell the most books. (David Walliams, for example, has a massive head-start on us.) If no one knows who we are, we'll have an awfully hard time making a living. If there's any way we can get a mention on telly or national radio, it really helps sales.

5. Illustrators (sometimes grudgingly) tear ourselves away from the work we most love to take trains and buses around the country to tell people about our work, to 'make a name for ourselves'. We're not doing it to get popular and 'recognised', we just hope enough people will buy our books to let us keep doing this job for a living. We end up working several full-time jobs at once - illustrator, publicist, book-keeper, event organiser - and we get incredibly tired.

6. Most illustrators aren't so-called 'media whores'. But my publicists and I noticed that when I read two minutes of Oliver and the Seawigs on Radio 4 Woman's Hour, our book sales had an absolutely enormous spike. So anyone with business sense will look out for opportunities like that.

7. When illustrators read articles by people in our own book industry - often even people in the children's book industry - who leave our names out of publicity about our picture books and focus solely on the writer, we feel like we're fighting a losing battle if even our own people won't support us.

8. Many illustrators are scared. We don't have pensions so we basically need to do this job until we die, unless we have a mega-hit like The Gruffalo (which almost no one will). But we already get stretched to the limits of our energy and worry we won't be able to keep up when we start approaching the age of Shirley Hughes, Judith Kerr or Quentin Blake. And by then, it won't be easy to switch careers.

'...Well', you say.

'That's a hard lot for you illustrators. But I'm not an illustrator, why should this be important to me?'

1. Book quality: As a reader, you'll get less quality collaborations. If illustrators continue to be left out of book listings, we have no way of advancing our careers. We sadly begin to realise that the only way we can make a name for ourselves is to write our own books. Not every illustrator can write well. I don't believe every illustrator should have to write. I love collaborating with Philip Reeve on my books, but I still feel I need to come up with some solo books or my work will go unnoticed by the media and I won't be able to keep doing this job.

2. Diverse books: Do you want books only illustrated by people who are wealthy enough to do it as a hobby? I'm not sure I could have gotten into my job without my husband supporting me for ten years while I fought my way in. I know a few people who have done it completely alone, without earning partners or trust funds, but most fail, and the few who succeed have gone through economic hell. If we want stories told by a wide range of people (and illustrators tell a story in a picture book as much as the writers), we need to let these people build a public career. You can help by naming both writer and illustrator when you mention the book.

3. Teachers and parents are missing a trick: Children find drawing hugely inspiring. I see time and time again that children who would never write a words-only story will happily pick up a pencil and create a comic strip. I showed Oliver and the Seawigs to a 10-year-old boy who kept reading until he came to the first page without pictures, when he put it down. Why do you think books such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Tom Gates are overwhelmingly popular? It's because they have lots of interplay between words and pictures.

4. Business is missing a trick: The Bookseller is full of articles about how the children's book industry is becoming a greater and greater force in sales. Children's books are doing better than any other kind of book. And many, many of the best ones are books illustrated by Liz Pichon, Axel Scheffler, Martin Brown and his Horrible Histories team, etc.

But... here we come to another huge problem, one which I'm only beginning to understand.

I first heard about it when I queried the Carnegie Medal listing of only writers, not illustrators, on their shortlist. (The Greenaway Medal listing included writers, even though it's an illustration award.) That was a bit of a saga (which you can read about here: The Carnegie Co-Author Conundrum).

The result of my queries was that the prize's chair, Joy Court, investigated and quickly changed the listing. She's a kind-hearted librarian who truly loves books, and she was happy to bring about the change.

Court explained to me that they were following a format that had been used for years and years, and they just hadn't questioned it. But she also mentioned the influence of something called a 'Nielsen listing', of which I'd vaguely heard mention before. It's how the Carnegie committee received Oliver and the Seawigs' information from the publisher, and the information only included the name of the writer (Philip Reeve). When the Carnegie website person plugged the information straight into their website shortlisting, the illustrator got left out.

Now, this next bit is going to sound like boring business-y stuff. It's information I hardly know anything about. Almost none of the illustrators I know have any inkling of how this all works. But I'm starting to suspect more and more that it can mean life or death to our careers.

Take a look at this part of The Bookseller article:

It wasn't just lazy journalism that left out Helen Oxenbury's name. This article was all about the tracking of how books sell, and while you can instantly find out how Rosen's books are doing on Nielsen BookScan, you can't track how Oxenbury's books are selling, except for the ones she wrote herself.

I've never actually seen a Nielsen BookScan or BookData entry; it's paid-subscription-only, accessed mostly by booksellers, publishers, librarians, agents and book journalists. Here's the Nielsen BookData website:

From what I gather, you can look up sales figures if you do a search for an author's name, or if you do a search for a book title. But you can't get figures by searching for an illustrator's name.

And these easy-to-access sales figures are how business gauge how books are doing, and how they publicise the successes. If the journalist only has information about the picture book's writer, they will publicise that the writer is doing well. Awards will be given to the writer. The picture book writer will get media appearances and invitations to do high-profile events. People will buy the writer's picture books. If the writer does particularly well, certain shops may stock only picture books by that writer, as is the case with airport shops who exclusively stock picture books by Julia Donaldson (because they know from Nielsen BookScan that her books sell well).

So where does that leave Axel Scheffler? He benefits from Donaldson's sales, and it's his work that the buyers are spotting in the shops and gravitating toward. If he works with another writer, his work will be just as high-quality, but the shops may not stock that book because of Nielsen BookData. If Julia Donaldson works with an illustrator who's less popular, the books will still appear in shops, regardless. I love Julia Donaldson and have huge respect for her, but this system isn't fair on Axel, or on any of us.

Here are the UK books I've worked on:

And here are the books my agent tells me that show up if you look for me on Nielsen BookScan:

If no one can see the illustrators' names in listings, no one will know about us to give us awards. If no one can easily access the commercial value of our illustration across all the books we make, no one can assess the commercial value of our career. Our work means nothing to people in business. And illustrators have to be business people. We are not free-spirited fairies who live on dew drops.

Readers don't care about our commercial value - they just want good books - but people who publicise books do. And readers mostly discover books through publicity and the media. We need recognition for our value to business to survive.

My agent (who represents a lot of illustrators as well as writers) joked that the silver lining for illustrators is that, if we're doing poorly, no one knows that, either.

So what needs to change? At least two things would make a big difference:

1. Remember the illustrator. People in the book industry need to remember to list the writer AND the illustrator of a book. If a writer is showing off a book cover, mention the book cover's artist. Awards groups, list both creators, don't default to the writer.

2. It seems to me that Nielsen's software needs updating.

It sounds like Nielsen's had people tell them this, including my agent, and an influential book-industry person who direct-messaged me, but no luck so far.

Which makes me think, why would Nielsen feel they need to change? Apparently it's a monopoly, there are no other book-data systems vying for people's business. So searching Nielsen could possibly run like Amazon, where you can click on either name and turn up all that writer OR illustrator's books, but why would it bother? It doesn't have to worry about its public relations, since there aren't any other options. But as the children's book business is growing in relation to other parts of the business, they might start to find tracking illustrators more important in determining what sells best.

I should add that The Bookseller does care about its PR and getting things right, and its senior editor apologised. I love The Bookseller, subscribe to it, and I know its journalists are working flat-out and make mistakes like we all do. But Nielsen is not being our friend right now in this.

So what are we supposed to do? What can I do, as an illustrator who's all but invisible to Nielsen? Not a lot. But I know a lot of people who care passionately about books, including The Bookseller, The Society of Authors, editors, agents. And some of them might be able to make changes.

So this is a plea to anyone who can help us, please do your part to influence Nielsen.

I'll end with a tweet by Joy Court from the Carnegie prize:

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13. reeve & mcintyre: bishop's stortford lit fest & society of authors

Whenever my Cakes in Space co-author Philip Reeve lands his spaceship in London to do an event, we tend to pack in a few more events to make the most of his visit. This week was a busy one! On Wednesday night, we managed to catch a party for The Bookseller magazine at Foyles bookshop on Charing Cross. Then we were off on a train bright and early to visit the Bishop's Stortford Festival of Literature. (Here's a warm-up picture I drew on their flip chart, to add to the prep school library's picture collection.)

Visits are always far better when the kids are prepared. Our first event was in front of hundreds of kids and they'd all read BOTH Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space! Here's a great drawing of killer cakes by one of the girls in the after-lunch book club meeting:

Dropping in to see the book club between our two big stage events was fun; they sat around us and told us what they liked best about the books and we got to sit and soak it up and eat star-themed cupcakes. Nice!

Here are some of the kids at the end of our second stage event, holding aloft the sea monkeys who joined in so vigourously with the chorus of our Sea Monkey sea shanty.

Huge thanks to the team who made it all happen! We hope lots of kids (and maybe some adults, too!) went away inspired to write and draw stories. From the left, here's fabulous stage technician Martin, festival oganiser Rosie Pike, Lynn Bailey (bookseller from the excellent Norfolk Children's Book Centre) and poet Stewart Henderson, who was also doing events with the kids that day at Bishop's Stortford College prep school. I got to wear my brand-new space dress, created by tailor Esther Marfo.

After signing loads of books, we hustled off to the train and rushed down to London to the Society of Authors headquarters, near Gloucester Road tube station. (Note background nosepicker.)

I'd been wearing the blue hair all day, so I switched over to a headscarf in an attempt at a slightly more grown-up look. Or something like that. (Here's a picture by our event technician, Niall Slater)

Writer, illustrator and illustrious YouTuber Shoo Rayner chaired our session and gave us a great intro and helped with question time. I didn't have any photos from the session so I've raided Twitter:

Philip and I talked about how we got started collaborating on our books with Oxford University Press, and we also talked about working relationships we've had with other people we've made books with. We also talked about writers and illustrators being co-authors, something I wrote about in an article for the Awfully Big Blog Adventure. We even had librarian Joy Court in the audience, who was so wonderfully instrumental recently in changing the Carnegie listings to include the illustrator when the books are illustrated. (Here was my blog post about it, which got constantly edited as the situation changed.) Right at the end of the event, we gave the audience a first-ever public reading of our story The Dartmoor Pegasus.

Big thanks to Jo McCrum and the Children's Writers & Illustrators Group for hosting our talk! It was fun bringing Oliver and the Seawigs to the place where the title and central story idea sprang out of (the acronym CWIG). If you've written or illustrated some books, I definitely recommend joining the Society of Authors; they're our best advocates when it comes to politics, complicated contracts, otherwise-unknown sources of money, and tricky legal things I can barely get my head around. Plus, they do events like this one! You can follow them on Twitter at @Soc_of_Authors.

Thanks to Shoo for being lots of fun and chairing, we had a good laugh with him afterward over dinner. He hosts a YouTube drawing channel, where you can learn how to draw almost more things than you can imagine: check out the Shoo Rayner Drawing channel.

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14. a poster for national libraries day!

Sat, 7 Feb is National Libraries Day! Our libraries are facing huge challenges right now with all the budget cuts, and it's a great time to show your support. Libraries with trained librarians are a wonderful haven for readers, especially children, who can work their way through huge amounts of books in a single sitting.

I've made a poster for the occasion, but I'll need your help colouring it in! Librarians (and anyone else), feel free to print it out and use it at your libraries! You could colour it yourself and hang it up, or have sheets available on tables with colouring supplies for visitors. Download an A4 PDF here!

(And you can also still download the previous poster, 'A Trained Librarian is a Powerful Search Engine with a Heart' here.) The Twitter hash tag for National Libraries Day seems to be #NLD15. Give your favourite librarian a shout-out!

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15. hourly comic day 2015

To find out more about #HourlyComicDay, click here to read my previous post! (Oh, and my picture book Dinosaur Police launches with Scholastic UK this spring.)

Thanks for reading! Here are some peeks at my upcoming picture book:

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16. hourly comic day: how it works

The first of February is annual Hourly Comics Day! That's tomorrow (Sunday)! If you've ever wanted to try your hand at comics but not known where to start, this is a great way to do it with lots of other people.

How to do it:

1. Draw a comic for every hour you're awake.

2. Load it onto your blog.

3. If you have access to Twitter, tweet it using the #HourlyComicDay hash tag.

4. Browse around and see what other people have done! Leave comments, they'll love it.

You can also submit it to the tencentticker website (here's last year's forum you can browse). Some people even print it up later and sell copies at comics festivals, but don't let that pressure you into trying to make it too perfect; you can do it very roughly, just for fun.

It was first started in 2006 by John Campbell and most people make it about what they're actually doing in their day, so it's a slice of life, but you don't have to do it that way. It's very informal, no one really runs it, but it's great fun seeing the other contributions. It feels more social doing it on the actual day than any other day because you can see people chatting about it on Twitter, but a few of us aren't able to do it on Sunday - a work day's easier for me - so we're going to do it on Monday. Some people tweet each hour as they go and other people save it all up to scan and post the next morning.

Keep an eye on the hashtag if you want to see conversation about it! (You don't even have to be on Twitter to watch.) Here are a couple of mine from previous years.

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17. the #NonIdentikit challenge

Yesterday I was bemoaning the lack of variety in the faces I see comics people and illustrators drawing for their main 'beautiful' characters. When teenagers show me their sketchbooks, so often they've drawn one face, over and over, often inspired by Japanese anime. I grew up with Betty and Veronica, who had the same faces with different colours of straight long hair.

Betty and Veronica, Sailor Moon

I'll do a longer blog post here about it soon, and include more images, but I've set a challenge for myself to draw 20 faces that don't fit the identikit model but are still strikingly beautiful, enough to make you turn around and think, WHOA. Faces that you look at and they're not your standard Hollywood ingenue or female superhero, but you can't stop looking. Sometimes they'll be from non-white ethnicities, sometimes they'll be the white teenage or 20-something women people seem to prefer drawing, but with a difference. A heavier chin, a big nose, a monobrow, the variations we get in real life.

Check the Twitter hash tag #NonIdentikit for updates, and feel free to use the hash tag to contribute your own! You can do detailed portraits or a bunch of quick doodles on a single sheet of paper, whatever you like. I'm hoping to learn a few things by doing this.

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18. fun with sharks and unicorns

From The Funday Times, 14 Dec - read entire comic strip here

I got the nicest e-mail yesterday from a dad named Ben:

Dear Sarah,
I am writing to say how much my 3 year old son, Adam, and I have enjoyed your Shark and Unicorn cartoons in the Funday Times and your website and blog. We have them on the wall in his playroom and he happily spends time reading and laughing. It has definitely helped his reading. We hope there are many more to come.

Kind regards, Ben and Adam

I should add that we have enjoyed the 'how to draw' guides. Adam is obsessed with windmills (we have visited nearly 100 over the past year!) so we have lots of drawings of windmills and the occasional shark, unicorn or Jampire included, often milling!

And that's a picture of Adam, with cut-out Shark & Unicorn strips. Hooray! I don't get as much feedback about Shark & Unicorn as I do about my other work, so it's great to hear that readers out there are enjoying it. My editor, Karen Robinson, was hoping we could aim it at quite young children, but I never really know if those children end up finding it, buried deep in The Sunday Times. So, hurrah, thanks, Adam & Ben! (Perhaps our windmill fan will grow up to read Rob Davis' Don Quixote comics.)

This year has been very caught up in sharks and unicorns, inside out and outside comics! We had a silly unicorn in the Summer Reading Challenge's Mythical Maze, and you can learn how to draw him over on the Guardian website here...

And I always love a good bit of dressing up! Here's one librarian unicorn:

And a Shark in the Bath! I'd love to see more shark-themed costumes for next World Book Day on 5 March. Do send/tweet me a photo if you dress up as one! (Or any of my other characters, for that matter!)

We weren't just drawing unicorns...

Lots of people drew sharks in the bath! (You can see a gallery of some of them in this blog post.)

This video is a couple years old, but it's had more views than any of my other videos and gives a little shark drawing tutorial from my studio:

And click over to my website to print out a colouring sheet, how-to-draw sheet and a kit for making your own little shark book. Hope you have fun with them!

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19. dartmoor pegasus: part 8

Back to the Dartmoor Pegasus! Here's the latest installation in the story by Philip Reeve and me. (You can read earlier episodes here.)

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20. dartmoor pegasus: part 9

Here's the latest installment in the Dartmoor Pegasus story by Philip Reeve and me. (Catch up on the rest of the story here.)

I'm not the only one bringing creativity to the Dartmoor Pegasus! Here's a piece of haiku, tweeted by @Canzonett:

And this lovely postcard painting arrived in the post, by @thatpebbles! One could easily imagine the Dartmoor Pegasus carved into the turf of a chalky hillside, like the Uffington or Westbury white horses.

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21. society of authors: join us on 5 feb!

If you're in London on Thurs, 5 Feb, join Philip Reeve, Shoo Rayner and me for an event on writer-illustrator partnerships and how they can work:

Writer Philip Reeve and illustrator Sarah McIntyre will talk about their collaborative partnership and how they have worked with other writers and illustrators. Do publishers help or hinder artistic relationships by keeping writers and illustrators apart? Are suggestions, from either side of the fence, ever welcome?

The Society of Authors have already advertised the event to their members, so if you're not a member, get in touch with them soon if you want to be sure of getting a ticket. Details on their website!

You can follow The Society of Authors on Twitter - @Soc_of_Authors - Shoo Rayner - @shoorayner - Philip Reeve - @philipreeve1 - and me, @jabberworks.

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22. dartmoor pegasus: part 11

And here's the latest installment of the Dartmoor Pegasus, by Philip Reeve and me! (You can read earlier episodes here.)

If you're not from Britain, and don't know what a 'custard cream' is, here's a description. They're not the most luxurious biscuits available, but I like them very much and the packet level goes down very quickly once the tea's made. You can also read a review of the custard cream over at nice cup of tea and a sit down.

And this isn't very much related, but I just thought you might like to see this lovely video, 'Bird on the Wires', by Jarbas Agnelli. He noticed the birds looked like musical notes and decided to see what would happen if he played them.

Direct YouTube link

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23. the full dartmoor pegasus... it's pony time!

And here are all twelve installments of the Dartmoor Pegasus story, starring Kevin the fat flying pony, by Philip Reeve and me! Well, we've come to the end of the first story; we might come back to it because I had too much fun to stop.

. . .

In that second-to-last picture, that's Stuart and me in the Pegasus nest with Sam (Philip and Sarah Reeve's son) and Sarah and Philip down below. (Check out Sarah Reeve's great Dartmoor Instagram photos if you want to see more of the landscape.)

Going on hikes with the Reeves, Stuart and I have encountered quite a few of the flightless ponies. Here's one of them:

On one of these walks, I was telling Philip how I'd always wanted to create a horse story because I was one of those horse-obsessed children. My family used to visit a place not far from our house called Kelsey Creek Farm where I took a 'farm experience course'. I remember making such a stink about not wanting to wear this beige farm experience shirt (beige!) but I loved the horse riding. My legs are too short to reach the stirrups in this photo:

I devoured stacks of romantic stories about horses, and here are just a few of them:

And I watched all the films: The Black Stallion, The Black Stallion Returns, Pharlap, The Man from Snowy River... Here's a scene from that last one that I thought was the most amazing thing ever:

For a horse-obsessed kid, I was incredibly lucky. My mother had a friend named Betty who bred show horses, but she always had a pony or two kicking about in the pasture. This one was named Bluebell and I LOVED Bluebell.

In almost all the books I read about horses, they always featured the theme of this SPECIAL BOND between the horse and its rightful owner (the main character). Perhaps no one would be able to ride the horse except this one good-hearted person. The horse would be wild and free, but come as soon as it could sense its beloved master nearby.

I knew that I couldn't possibly love anyone more than Bluebell, and surely she must realise this - I longed to have her love me back - but the problem was that Bluebell HATED me. This was deeply upsetting.

See how tight those reins are? Staying on top of Bluebell was a constant battle. She was the Amazing Inflatable Horse, and would blow up her belly to an obscene size while I was putting on the saddle. Then I'd ride out and she'd blow out all the air and the saddle would flop sideways with me in it. If that didn't work, she's scrape me off along a fence post. Or buck me over her head. Or roll, or throw me into farm equipment.

No one else wanted to ride Bluebell so it became my mission to be the one person who could tame this wild pony and make her love me. We'd go for mad gallops through the pasture and both come back covered in blood and sweat and foam, and Bluebell hated me with renewed vigour.

I never forgot this deep sense of LONGING as a child, and the thrill of riding very fast and not knowing if I'd break my neck and kind of not caring. I thought, I really must write one of those horse books, like the ones I loved as a child.

But... well, take a look at this cover. Here's one of my Black Stallion books:

It's awfully hard to take this stuff seriously when you're a grownup. Them ponies ain't ever gonna love you, little Sarah. I'm not sure I could make one of these stories with a straight face, it might take a better person than me. So when Philip and I started the Dartmoor Pegasus drawings, with their element of fun absurdity, they felt just right.

People have asked if we're doing a book, but I have no idea; I just wanted something fun to draw that doesn't have any expectations or deadline. BUT... hold your horses! There WILL be something for you to read, that is sure to be a great laugh: one of my favourite webcartoonists, Kate Beaton, is bringing out a fat pony book!

The Princess and the Pony
launches at the end of June with Arthur A. Levine Books in the USA, and you can read a Wired interview with her about it here. Kate's book started with some fat pony comics on her blog, such as this one:

Also check out horse books for older kids by Lauren St John. But I wish there were more comics about horses and ponies. The only recent one I can think of is My Little Pony comics. Here are two panels by Andy Price (story by Katie Cook) and you can get a preview of some more on Comic Book Resources website.

I wish I'd known when I was a kid that I could have made horse comics, when I had all that time and passion. I totally would have done that. Why did I not figure that out?? If there had been any at the library, I would have sat down and read them ALL, in one sitting.

News flash to all the little Sarahs of the world: WE CAN ALL MAKE PONY COMICS.

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24. checking in with vern the sheep

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25. nice pie

Stuart made a lovely pie last night. (Steak and kidney, if you're wondering.)

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